Thinking

by Krishna on September 17, 2007

Here is an interesting quote by A. A. Milne that I found thought-provoking:

The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority.
The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority.
The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.

There are different levels of thinking and learning. Here is a stab at what I think some of the stages are:

  1. Not thinking at all or having no opinion.
  2. Having an opinion or belief.
  3. Knowing opinions contrary to one’s own.
  4. Learning to defend one’s opinion against arguments.
  5. Understanding the strong points of contrary opinions.
  6. Accepting that the other party may have some valid points.
  7. Formulating a new opinion by integrating strong points on both sides of the argument.
  8. Playing devil’s advocate against one’s opinions.
  9. Making opinions evolve through experience and knowledge.

Most of us are usually at steps 2 to 4. In many situations, this is perfectly fine because otherwise, we would waste unnecessary time and energy pursuing needless arguments. But there are other circumstances where not questioning what we believe and what we do can lead to inefficiencies and failures. An example would be the software processes that we follow every day.

Questioning our beliefs and actions is quite difficult. It is much easier to be for or against something and stay on auto-pilot. Sometimes, it requires external intervention from events and people to knock us out of our comfort zone and start critiquing ourselves.

One way to do this is to seek out contrary opinions. If you believe something, search for the opposite argument and read about it. For example, if you believe you should use Framework XYZ to write your new application, search on Google and find what the critics are saying. If you read about a new technique, learn about its weak points.

Above all, don’t believe your own rhetoric. Tying your ego to your present ideas is a sure way to drown with them.

{ 3 comments }

Kalpesh September 18, 2007 at 7:51 pm

I am being philosophical here 🙂
This is a quote which says the truth

"Time is the great teacher. Unfortunately it kills all it's pupils"

I think it applies to everything. As time goes (we got older), we shed skin, hair & our thoughts/ego as well
We don't have a choice - not to.

A related quote in software applicable here could be "there is no silver bullet"

Kalpesh September 19, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Today, I went to have coffee after lunch at starbucks

And, on the cup - they have something printed, which is written under

"The way I see It #280"

You can learn a lot more from listening than you can from talking. Find someone with whom you don't agree in the slightest and ask them to explain themselves at length. Then take a seat, shut your mouth, and don't argue back. It's physically impossible to listen with your mouth open.

-- John Moe
Radio host and author of Conservatize Me.

Krishna Kumar September 20, 2007 at 10:38 am

Thanks for your comments, Kalpesh

As we grow older, we learn exceptions and nuances to our thoughts and beliefs.

However, this does not come automatically. We have to train ourselves to listen and learn.

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